Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Family Status: Partnership

One of my little obsessions has to do with parliaments. The elected bodies, not the cigarettes. When at my mother's house watching Israel's channel 99, the Knesset channel, my mother asks rhetorically what would they do without me, their lone viewer.

While I have not voted for Meretz since 1992, and while I am content that the Israeli left-wing electorate has punished the party for its support of the wars on Lebanon and Gaza, I must admit that I am happy that their #3, Nitzan Horowitz, was sworn in today as a member of the 18th Knesset. On his official bio page, his "Family Status" is listed as "Partnership." His partner, Ido Riklin, was reported to have been in attendance at the swearing in. The first bill that MK Horowitz has pledged to introduce would be one that would end the backwards monopoly of religious authorities on matrimony and divorce in Israel.

Whether the bill stands a chance in parliament is extremely doubtful. But its mere introduction is a must in light of the current bill proposed and supported by neo-Fascist MK Avigdor Lieberman, which aims to provide civil unions, mostly to immigrants from the former USSR whose Judaism is not recognized by the Chief Rabbinate. That bill, surprise surprise, would leave even this weakened civil union to heterosexual couples only. Horowitz's bill calls for full-fledged marriage, performed in secular civil proceedings, to any couple, gay or straight, Jewish of not, who chooses to do so. Plain and simple.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Catching up

For the past ten hours, my fellow countrypersons have been voting. For me, this is the first general election since I turned eighteen almost twenty-one years ago in which I have not voted. Israel doesn't have absentee voting, and I am absent.

In a meager attempt to redeem myself, I drove to New York on Saturday. The day began with a Palestinian breakfast with friends on the Upper West Side, where conversation shifted constantly among politics, linguistics, and where one can buy good labaneh in Paterson, NJ. Afterwards I took the Subway downtown and attended a small, yet vocal and creative demonstration at 700 Madison Ave., where Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev has opened shop
. He sells diamonds. He also funds settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal under International Law, but way too legal under Israeli law.

I recalled that in one of the January demonstrations in Tel Aviv against the Israeli war crimes in Gaza, some people had found the use of drums somewhat tasteless. As if the drummers were playing loud, upbeat music and rejoicing. I, with my nonexistent musical expertise, had tried to counter them and argue that music, and drums in particular (don't ask me why) can serve as a powerful form of protest. Come to think of it, music has been used quite often for this purpose, from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez to rappers from Watts to al-Lidd and beyond (and thanks to Ali Issa for enlightening me on the latter).

Last Saturday's protest included not only music (e.g., "Diamonds are a crime's best friend"), but also an enactment of a mock game show entitled "One Date Solution." I, frankly, thought it was a bit too long, the dialogue quite predictable, and the preachers' audience consisting of some forty-odd converted. But given the off-off-off-Broadway nature of the performance (after all, this was the East Side!), and the political convictions of the participants, I'd hesitate to grant them nothing short of a nod of approval.

True, it is difficult to smile when speaking of atrocities such as those carried out by the Israeli occupiers. But on the flip side of things, if those of us who have been fortunate enough to enjoy many of the freedoms that the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank do not fail to exercise these freedoms due to chronic fatigue and depression, we are not really doing good to anyone.

The combination of the elections in which I am not voting, the protest in which I was, to the best of my knowledge, the only Israeli, my recent visits to Jordan and the symposium I helped organize at F&M, my sense of identity is getting ever so blurry. I think I am getting much closer to understand the conflict of the Arabs of '48, i.e, Palestinians who are citizens of Israel.

To be continued.

הארץ Haaretz

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